In 1926, Ford was inventing the 40-hour work week, while Author A.A. Milne introduced the world to Winnie-the-Pooh. Prohibition was at its peak and had been in place for over 5 years. Bootleggers had created an extensive network for the distribution of their products. Our lessons at past museums told us that there also existed a plethora of speakeasies. While removing the 18th Amendment was a death blow to bootlegging, there is still nostalgia for those days. A visit to Club Arcada, in St. Charles, Illinois, would be a good way for us to step back in time for our date with history.
We want to thank the St. Charles Business Alliance for hosting our visit. Rest assured all opinions are our own.
Our Time Machine
This unique dining opportunity is located inside the Arcada Theater, which opened in 1926. The owners must have had a lot of faith in their vision. This 1000-seat venue was built in a town of 5000. Just a stone’s throw from the Fox River, Club Arcada has seen a tremendous cavalcade of stars grace the stage. Vaudeville acts were all the rage, and performances by greats like George Burns and Gracie Allen were popular. Musical performers, at the Arcada Theater, included styles from John Phillip Sousa to Kenny Rogers or Three Dog Night. With Chicago less than an hour away, St. Charles was a popular getaway for city dwellers.
We told the doorman that we had arrived for our date with history. He motioned us to a nearby elevator and explained the evening’s password. After a short ride, we were deposited into a room obviously designed to weed out the constables. Once we told the hostess the password, she revealed access to the speakeasy. With a wave of her hand, we were directed into the main dining room. Here we noticed a smaller stage set in a corner of the room that reminded us this place began as a musical venue.
The Main Event
The speakeasy is actually broken into a series of rooms. Some smaller spots are carved out along the perimeter and are sometimes used for VIPs. The main dining room is brightly decorated and shined with the glitz and glamor of the Roaring Twenties. Looking around the room, we noticed all of the staff kept in character of the times by dressing in period garments. This certainly added to the total ambiance of the setting.
Stepping Back in Time
After putting in our drink order, it was time to do a little investigating. The main dining room is named after the dancing duo, Fred & Ginger. Tucked away in a corner, I discovered the romantic Jean Harlow Room. One space that I found particularly appealing is the Charlie Chaplin room. It is filled with photographic equipment, as well as continuous running Chaplin films. I could have lingered here all evening.
Medley of Tastes
By the time I returned to the table, our drinks had arrived. Rum and Gin were popular liquors during the Twenties and held prominent positions on the drink menu. The ones we ordered were delightful, refreshing, and endangered. Our meals followed quickly behind our drink order. Crystal had read my mind and ordered the Charlie Chaplin Chicken. The lemon-garlic sauce had a delightful flavor that begged for more bites. My Mini Sammie Flight featured pot roast, Homemade meatball, and BBQ pork sliders. We were barely halfway through the meal when we knew we would have to ration space for dessert.
You can’t have a complete date with history without including some indulgence. After perusing the dessert menu for a bit, we decided to take one each of the New York Cheesecake and Chocolate Indulgence. When the plates arrived, we began wondering what we had done. It was decided to use the divide and conquer method to navigate these huge slices of richness. After a few bites, our pace had slowed to a crawl. While the food was all delicious, it was far more than we were prepared for. Even with fullness taking the lead, it was hard to put down the forks.
Our Date with History
As we said our final farewells to the Roaring Twenties, we found ourselves retracing our steps to the entrance of the Arcada Theater. Our date with history had transported us to a time long ago. From the music to the images and costumes, we found the experience to be quite immersive. We saw some of our fellow diners join in the fun by getting decked out in their own Twenties garb. This is the type of destination that goes beyond dinner and into the realm of entertainment. Have you ever been to a speakeasy?